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The Emerging Mind: The BBC Reith Lectures 2003 Paperback – September 20, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran is Director of the Centre for the Brain at the University of California, San Diego. He has a PhD from Cambridge and many honours and awards including a fellowship from All Souls College, Oxford and a Gold medal from the Australian National University. Dr Ramachandran lectures widely on art, visual perception and the brain. He has published over 120 papers in scientific journals, is Editor-in-chief of the Encyclopaedia of Human Behaviour, the Encyclopaedia of the Human Brain and author of the critically acclaimed Phantoms in the Brain, which was the basis for a two part series on Channel Four TV. Newsweek recently named him a member of 'the century club' one of the 'hundred most prominent people to watch in the next century.'
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd (September 20, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861973039
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861973030
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #752,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I was disappointed to find that this book contains exactly the same material as Ramachandran's other book, "A brief tour of human consciousness." I'm not sure why the same material was published twice under two different titles.

Also, if you're interested in Ramachandran's research, I would recommend instead his 1999 book "Phantoms in the Brain." It contains a lot more material, much of which is duplicated in the Reith lectures.
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The two main themes in this short but important book are that

1. by studying neurological syndromes, we acquire novel insights into the functions of the normal brain;

2. the functions of the brain are best understood from an evolutionary vantage point.

V. Ramachandran's examples illustrate profusely that there is no separate 'mind stuff' and 'physical stuff' in the universe. The two are one and the same. Mind is a matter of matter.

There is also an indisputable link between neurology and psychology: psychic illnesses have organic causes.

The author sees the brain as a model-making machine: virtual reality simulations, models of other people's mind.

The Darwinian aspect is always present. As T. Dobzhansky said (quoted in this book): 'Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.'

Natural selection has ensured that the subjective sensation of willing is delayed deliberately to coincide not with the onset of the brain command, but with the actual execution of the command.

The hierarchical 'tree' structure of syntax in language may be evolved from tool use. Language itself is not a specific adaptation which evolved for the sole purpose of communication.

The 'booba/kiki' effect shows that there is a pre-existing non-arbitrary translation between the visual appearance of an object and the auditory representation. Lips are physically mimicking the visual appearance of what one is saying and together with tongue movements produce 'proto-words'.

This short book with an excellent glossary is very rich.
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This collection of lectures is an interesting quick read for whoever is new and interested in neology. It covers a wide range of topics and tries to explain cultural preference, such as art and language, by looking at how our brain works. Because it is based lectures to the general pubilc, the language is humours and more of a oral-style.

With some different topics, it does overlap significantly with Dr. Ramachandran's other book "Phantoms in the brain". Meanwhile, I have and am happy with both books - they each have something the other one doesn't.

If you are just curious and plan to spent 2-3 hours (at weekend at the beach) on a neology book, this lecture collection is a great choice. If you are intrigued and would like to spend 20 hours for a more systemic introduction, "Phantoms in the brain" is a better option. If you just can't have enough, get both.
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The Emerging Mind: The BBC Reith Lectures 2003
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